GRRM is here at Boskone again this year. He had an hour reading which I attended. I was at a previous reading so I didn't get to the room early. People usually line up early to get into his readings even though they are held in one of the larger rooms for a reading.
He had started on time, so I came in after he had already begun reading. I don't know if it was a 'new' Feast of Crows chapter, or a previous one that he was re-reading. He stated at Worldcon that he would only do one more reading with new material, but who knows if he kept to that or not. Anyway it was a Sansa chapter. It was good. He read for about 40 minutes and then answered questions and spoke about the situation.
He is still working on the book, though close to the end. He will post it as soon as it is done on his web site. It is only real when you see it there, not what publishers, or booksellers say. He has over a 1000 pages written, and possibly 1300 or is thinking he will end at 1300 -- not sure which, he was rather unclear. He said he had enough to send it in to be published, but he didn't want to end it with: To Be Continued. He wants the book to be something he can be proud of, and not just acceptable for publication. He is struggling with the ending of the book now. He also said he had most of the parts done, but was now trying to string it together into a complete whole that worked.
He knows where he wants the series to end, but he does not have a mapped out route of how to get there. He said sometimes he takes the interstate, and sometimes he takes a small scenic road, and finds really interesting stuff along the side of the road, and sometimes he breaks down. He then said that at one time he was talking about a 5 year gap between the end of the previous book and the start of this one. He announced that at cons and in interviews and so felt he had to keep to it even when it wasn't working for some characters - they just had too much that would have had to happen in the past and be explained through flashback. So he didn't change but kept fighting to make it happen. He finally realized he had to let it go, and throw out a lot of writing he did, and start over. He wants the 5 year gap because he wants the kids to grow up, but some of the adults have too much going on for that to work. He now thinks he needs to somehow put the characters on different time-lines, so that those who are kids can grow up, and he can still detail the adults activity. He said he has an idea how to do it, but since he felt trapped the last time he said what he was going to do, he wouldn't talk about the specifics.
He thinks there are going to be 6 books in the series, but he laughed and said that of the five year gap AFfC has only covered 4 months so far. Others have mentioned 7 or 8. He has a definite end to the series and there will be the number of books needed to get the story there. Then he talked about the next book which is tentatively called Dances With Dragons . It was supposed to be #2, then #3, then #4, and now #5. He said no matter how much he writes it recedes into the future.
He said even though he has started #5 it is not a case where it will come out 6 months after AFfC. Some of what was written is based on AFfC having the 5 year gap, so it will have to be redone.
He said the publishers have releases for all their books planned out for the year, and once you miss your slot even if only by a few weeks it may take months or another year for the next slot to come around - so he has no idea how soon AFfC will be out once he turns it in. He did say that he expects the UK version to come out first because their market is so small they have made an effort to push new US books through very fast and beat US publication -- they are trying to steal the US readers who are unwilling to wait. Simultaneous publication robs them of this edge, so they will push it out first.
He also mentioned that part of the reason for the delay was the expansion of POV characters in AFfC. He said in book one it was 8, in book two 9, and in book three 10. AFfC has 19 POV characters. He said it was due to him bringing in Dorn and the Northern Isles. He also said he needs to kill some characters off. He wouldn't say who. His favorite is Tyrion, but his is the last chapter he is having trouble finishing. He thinks it might split into 2 chapters. Bran is the character he likes least. Not because of the character, but because it is very hard for him to write from the perspective of a 7 year old, and then a crippled 7 year old. He also says the temptation when writing fantasy is to use magic to cure him, but he doesn't see that happening.
The other reasons for the delay is that he has been sucked into doing things associated with the books. He talked about the art, games, audio books, figurines and the graphic novels. He thought it would just be giving an ok, and then he is involved in picking artists, approving text. All things he enjoys but which also reduce his writing time. He is also going to be meeting with the people who did the Graphic Novel of The Hedge Knight and there may be more Duncan and the Egg Graphic Novels. He has had a few nibbles from Hollywood on ASoIaF, but he doesn't think they will be able to make a movie of the books unless they wait until the series is done and then find the central character - whittle the rest down to about 4 and tell a limited story from the POV of 4 or 5 characters.
He said in the last book (which I haven't read yet) the Red Wedding was the toughest to write out of all the writing he has done over the years. He wrote up to it, and the repercussions of it, but then had to go back and actually write it.
One of the fans asked how he was dealing with the danger that when authors got very big and were no longer edited that they produced less than wonderful work. The guy tapped dance around the question but GRRM knew what he was talking about. He said it was always a danger, and no writer likes to be edited, but he had editors he trusted, and first readers who gave him good feedback. He also takes his stuff to workshops and listens to the suggestions and criticisms. He said you have to worry about becoming self-indulgent and turning out crap. The only thing to do is try to listen to others, even though what you write and keep is really up to the writer, and be aware of the possibility. He said he thought the fans would tell him right away if that happened, and then joked that some thought it already had.
He attends about 6 cons or events a year. If he did any more he would have no time for writing. He knows he could get more done if he attended less, but he is unwilling to do so. He enjoys the fan contact and the perks of visiting different places around the world that now come with his success. What he is doing is booking events years ahead so he can keep to 6 per year and still not have to turn things down. He just agreed to do a writer's workshop in a chateau in the Dordogne in 2008.
So that is what I remember, if there are any errors it is because I didn't remember correctly.